To find out what RAM is compatible, you need to know the specifications of your motherboard. Follow these steps to discover its specs on Windows:
- Click on the Windows search bar. Then type “command” and hit enter to search.
- At the top of the results will be an app called Command Prompt. Click on it.
- When the command window opens, type
wmic baseboard get product,Manufacturer,version,serialnumberexactly as it is written here and press enter.
- Record or remember the information step 3 pulls up.
- Go to your motherboard’s manufacturer’s website and look up your model. The manufacturer should have the specifications.
Once you have the specifications, you need to determine what RAM specifications it can handle. I will detail the main factors that decide what RAM you can use below. Additionally, I will include other ways to find your motherboard’s specs.
What Are the 4 Factors of Compatibility?
RAM can be described using four different specifications. Each one of them is important for determining whether your motherboard is compatible. Your motherboard will have some range with a few, but most are very restrictive.
These four factors are:
- Form factor,
- DDR generation,
- RAM capacity,
- RAM speed.
The form factor of your RAM stick refers to whether it is DIMM or SO-DIMM. DIMM stands for Dual In-Line Memory Module, while the prefix SO stands for Small Outline. The two types are different enough that your motherboard will only accept one type.
DDR, on the other hand, stands for Double Data Rate. This technology has gone through several generations in which the next is more advanced than the previous. The current generation is DDR 4. Like the form factor, DDR generations are not interchangeable.
Next is the storage capacity of your RAM stick measured in GB. This is an essential factor for how heavy of a load your RAM can handle. Your motherboard will have a maximum amount of RAM it can support. This maximum is divided by the number of available slots.
Lastly is the RAM speed, which is measured in MHz. RAM speed intuitively affects how fast various RAM functions are. Your motherboard will have a speed cap that it cannot go above. However, you can install faster RAM than the motherboard supports. You just won’t be able to reach those speeds.
What Form Factor Do I Need?
As mentioned above, your motherboard will only accept one form factor. This is due to the physical differences between the two types.
DIMM sticks are usually larger than SO-DIMM sticks. They also have different numbers of pins and notch locations. Not to mention, the voltages between the two types are different.
The specs for your motherboard should list whether it is compatible with DIMM or SO-DIMM RAM. Alternatively, you should be able to tell based on if the motherboard is for a laptop or desktop. Laptops typically use SO-DIMM, while desktops use DIMM.
What DDR Generation Is Compatible?
Since the DDR generation is another aspect that is not interchangeable, you need to be sure which generation to pick. Luckily the answer is relatively straightforward. The most recent generation, DDR 4, is the most common for all motherboards made since 2016.
Motherboards made after 2014 will likely also be DDR 4 compatible, but they may not. Although DDR 4 was released then, it didn’t become as widely available until 2016. Depending on what you are upgrading, you may need a DDR 3 stick.
If you are planning to upgrade a computer using DDR 2 or below, you may as well upgrade to a motherboard that can handle DDR 4. Older generation RAM sticks are hard to find and therefore expensive.
How Much RAM Do I Need?
This question has more to do with the purpose of the computer than the motherboard. There are caps you should have in mind, of course. However, they won’t be as important as what you want to do.
If, for example, your motherboard has a cap of 32 GB of RAM and two slots. The maximum amount of RAM you’d be able to install is two 16 GB RAM sticks. The maximum of 32 GB is divided by the two slots, so you cannot install a stick with more than 16 GB in one slot.
For light use or even most gaming uses, 16 GB of RAM will work fine. So in most cases, you wouldn’t need to use all of the supported RAM capacity. Most modern motherboards will have a larger supported capacity than 32 GB anyway.
How Fast Should My RAM Be?
The last consideration is RAM speed or frequency. This one is less important than the question of capacity. Faster speeds will result in faster performance. That said, the speed increase generally isn’t worth the extra cost. Though, again, this depends on the purpose of the computer.
As for matching the capability of your motherboard, most are capable of using RAM sticks with a higher frequency. So even if you purchase a RAM stick with a high speed, it will only run as fast as the motherboard can handle.
Other Ways To Check My Motherboard’s RAM Capabilities
If you don’t feel comfortable using the Command Console or are looking for another method, look no further. There are two other methods you can use. The first involves using the System Information app on Windows.
- Open the Windows search bar and search for “System Information”.
- Click on the app that appears with the same name.
- In the system summary section, scroll until you see BaseBoard Manufacturer.
- This row and the next two will detail the manufacturer, model, and version of your motherboard.
- Now you can search the manufacturer’s site for your motherboard specs.
Unfortunately, this doesn’t always work. If it does not, you may need to use third-party software. Various services will tell you what motherboard you have. Popular ones include Crucial, CPU-Z, Speccy, and Belarc Advisor.